Beethoven – The Last Three Piano Sonatas – Glenn Gould

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Glenn Gould, Beethoven, Ludwig Van Beethoven, 3 last sonatas, Charles Rosen, Marc Vignal, Robert Cushman, Antonie Brentano, Maynard Salomon, Archduke Rudolph, Maximiliane Brentano, Schubert, HaydnLudwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Sonata for Piano No. 30 in E Major, Opus 109

Sonata for Piano No. 31 in A-flat Major, Opus 110

Sonata for Piano No. 32 in C Minor, Opus 111

Glenn Gould, Piano

Recorded in 1956 (CBS Records)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Beethoven is not the ideal composer for Glenn Gould (as Bach is – as illustrated here and here and here and here and here) but this is still a rousing, exciting performance throughout and, certainly, never boring.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Marc Vignal – translation by Robert Cushman):

To inaugurate at least two of the important periods of his career, Beethoven wrote a work of vast dimensions in the four traditional movements and applying Haydn’s principles of form on a scale hitherto unknown: on the one hand, the Eroica Symphony in 1804 and, on the other, the Hammerklavier Sonata (No. 29 in B-flat major, Op. 106) in 1818.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Glenn Gould, Beethoven, Ludwig Van Beethoven, 3 last sonatas, Charles Rosen, Marc Vignal, Robert Cushman, Antonie Brentano, Maynard Salomon, Archduke Rudolph, Maximiliane Brentano, Schubert, HaydnOnly three piano sonatas – No. 30 in E major, Op. 109; No. 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110; and No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 – were written after the Hammerklavier. They were composed between 1819 and 1822 in parallel with the Missa Solemnis, the other major work to which Beethoven was then devoting his time.

As for the Diabelli Variations, although they were started in 1819 before the last three sonatas, they were only completed in 1823, after a long interruption. The year 1823 was also that in which Beethoven did most of the work on the Ninth Symphony. After this there remained only the last five string quartets.

Compared with the Hammerklavier, the last three sonatas appear to mark a return to a certain brevity, even to a certain simplicity. All three are about the same length with, as a common characteristic, special importance given to the finale, which in each case lasts over half the length of the entire sonata.

Nevertheless, although Opus 109 has three movements and Opus 110 four, Opus 111 has only two. In themselves these overall structures were in no way extraordinary, but it is noteworthy that, in both Opus 109 and Opus 110, the section preceding the finale tends to be reduced to the role of an introduction.

The finales of Opus 109 and Opus 111 are in the theme-and-variations form, ending almost imperceptibly in silence (and yet they do not truly seem to end), while that of Opus 110 is a complex combination of recitatif, arioso and fugue (variations and fugues especially preoccupied Beethoven at the end of his life).

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Glenn Gould, Beethoven, Ludwig Van Beethoven, 3 last sonatas, Charles Rosen, Marc Vignal, Robert Cushman, Antonie Brentano, Maynard Salomon, Archduke Rudolph, Maximiliane Brentano, Schubert, HaydnBy comparison with what leads up to it, the finale of Opus 111 functions as an antithesis.

That of Opus 109 returns to and somehow prolongs the first movement (with the second movement acting as a violent interlude), while the finale of Opus 110 – the only one of the three to end fortissimo – little by little frees the energy previously held more or less in check.

Unlike the Hammerklavier and each in its own way, Opus 109, Opus 110 and Opus 111 are constructed in “open” form, and in them we remark a considerable simplification in style and in the working-out, as well as clearer alternations of tension and relaxation. Such alternations, however, are especially characteristic of the composer’s late works. In these sonatas Beethoven confronted time – and eternity.

Begun in 1819, Sonata No. 30 in E major, Opus 109 was finished in the autumn of 1820 but not published until November 1821, with a dedication to Maximiliane Brentano (the daughter of Antonie Brentano, whom Maynard Salomon believes the most likely candidate for the “Immortal Beloved”).

The manuscripts show that the first movement was originally planned as a separate piece, probably for inclusion in the future series of Bagatelles Op. 119. Of the last three sonatas this is the one that is most unlike the Hammerklavier, after which it offers a welcome feeling of relaxation.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Glenn Gould, Beethoven, Ludwig Van Beethoven, 3 last sonatas, Charles Rosen, Marc Vignal, Robert Cushman, Antonie Brentano, Maynard Salomon, Archduke Rudolph, Maximiliane Brentano, Schubert, HaydnThe first movement presents a very free alternation of a lively theme (Vivace ma non troppo, sempre legato), of almost impressionistic sonorities, with an Adagio espressivo bearing the traits of an improvised recitatif. The Prestissimo in E minor (second movement) enters without a pause. The third movement (Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo), which returns to E major, opens with a calm, lyrical theme (a kind of sublimated sarabande) followed by six accelerating variations and closing with the repetition of the theme.

Initially sketched in 1819 and completed by December 18, 1821, Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110 was published in August 1822, without a dedication. It begins with a Moderato cantabile molto espressivo which is undoubtedly the composer’s most beautiful lyrical movement, setting aside his slow movements. It offers resemblances with Schubert. There are many themes, but they follow one another smoothly.

Then comes a violent Allegro molto in F minor, a sort of scherzo in duple (rather than triple) time. After a normal organ point, everything forms a solid block, as Beethoven successfully performs the miracle of interlocking different opposites: arioso and fugue, profound despondency and elan vital. A solemn recitatif in B-flat minor (third movement or introduction to the finale?) marked Adagio ma non troppo opens this “universe of alternation” and culminates in an A repeated 26 times.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Glenn Gould, Beethoven, Ludwig Van Beethoven, 3 last sonatas, Charles Rosen, Marc Vignal, Robert Cushman, Antonie Brentano, Maynard Salomon, Archduke Rudolph, Maximiliane Brentano, Schubert, HaydnThen rises a song of lamentation (Arioso dolente) in A-flat minor leading to a fugue in A-flat major (Allegro ma non troppo) bringing a respite. When it falls away, the Arioso dolente comes back in G minor, more gasping, more despairing than ever. Ten increasingly powerful, obstinate G major chords try a new sally, and the fugue returns inverted and in G major (a distant key). This fugue is dropped once A-flat major reappears, thereby reinforcing the dramatic, triumphal effect of the final measures, especially since the piano writing here is particularly brilliant.

Completed in 1822 and published during the same year, with a dedication to Archduke Rudolph, Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 has only two, completely dissimilar movements: minor and major modes, sonata form and theme-and-variations form, dynamic character and static character, dramatism and contemplation, etc.

It opens with an introduction (Maestoso) largely based upon diminished seventh harmonies. Three diminished sevenths follow one another and return in the same order as chords at the end of the Allegro con brio ed appassionato and, above all, as a generalized harmonic procedure during the central development.

This development is fugal: the main theme of the movement clearly called for a fugue, but Beethoven withheld using it earlier to provide increased animation in the development.

The second movement is the famous Arietta (Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile) in C major with variations. The theme is very simple, and the working-out moves toward constantly greater simplification – not in the musical or sound fabric, quite the contrary, but as regards the very conception of the theme, which is gradually reduced to a mere skeleton.

After about a quarter hour of the purest C major, we reach a cadential trill followed by a modulation to E-flat major: this passage constitutes the only harmonic motion in the movement and also the only passage in which, from the rhythmic standpoint, everything remains completely suspended, until the return of C major in the final, accelerated variations.

As Charles Rosen points out, Beethoven’s exploration, late in his life, of the tonal universe became more and more essentially meditative.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-3: Beethoven Sonata for Piano No. 30 in E Major, Opus 109
  • 4-6: Beethoven Sonata for Piano No. 31 in A-flat Major, Opus 110
  • 7-8: Beethoven Sonata for Piano No. 32 in C Minor, Opus Opus 111

FINAL THOUGHT:

An 85 rating almost seems too low for ANY recording by Glenn Gould (he’s Glenn freakin’ Gould for goodness sake) but this entire recording is just so over the top intense that all subtlety is lost on the first notes of the first cut. But 85 out of 88 is still way better than most. I love Glenn Gould!

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Glenn Gould, Beethoven, Ludwig Van Beethoven, 3 last sonatas, Charles Rosen, Marc Vignal, Robert Cushman, Antonie Brentano, Maynard Salomon, Archduke Rudolph, Maximiliane Brentano, Schubert, Haydn

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

 

 

Beethoven – Triple Concerto – Opus 56

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Triple Concerto, Classical Music, Piano Trio, Kakadu Variations, Bernard Haitink, Prince Lobkowitz, Anton Felix Schindler, Archduke Rudolph, Karl August Seiler, Anton Krafft, Moazart, Hugo Riemann, Thayer, Wenzel Mullers, The Sisters of Prague, Beaux Arts Trio, Manahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, Bernard Greenhouse, London Philharmonic, Michael Talbot, Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht, Jacques Lasserre, Carlo Vitali, Bart Mulder, Christian Steiner, Ed Koenders, Estelle KercherLudwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

(Triple Concerto) Concerto in C for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Opus 56

Piano Trio No. 11 in G, Opus 121a

London Philharmonic Orchestra (Bernard Haitink, conductor)

Beaux Arts Trio – Menahem Pressler (piano), Isidore Cohen (violin), Bernard Greenhouse (cello)

Recorded in London 1/1977 (Opus 56); La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland 5/1979 (Opus 121a)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

I didn’t really have anything special to do on Valentine’s Day (don’t cry for me I’m going out tomorrow night – the restaurants in L.A. are a nightmare on Valentine’s Day) – so I finally have time to write this about this recording of the Beethoven Triple Concerto and… it is fabulous!

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht – translation by Michael Talbot):

The Drive For Unity

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Triple Concerto, Classical Music, Piano Trio, Kakadu Variations, Bernard Haitink, Prince Lobkowitz, Anton Felix Schindler, Archduke Rudolph, Karl August Seiler, Anton Krafft, Moazart, Hugo Riemann, Thayer, Wenzel Mullers, The Sisters of Prague, Beaux Arts Trio, Manahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, Bernard Greenhouse, London Philharmonic, Michael Talbot, Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht, Jacques Lasserre, Carlo Vitali, Bart Mulder, Christian Steiner, Ed Koenders, Estelle KercherBeethoven Concerto in C, Op. 56 (Triple Concerto)

Beethoven worked on the Triple Concerto during 1803-1804; it was not published, however, until 1807.

The first drafts appear already on the last pages of the “Eroica” sketchbook and are continued in the large “Eroica” sketchbook.

The concerto is dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz, but Beethoven’s later “right-hand man,” Anton Felix Schindler, claimed that this “Concertino,” as he called it, was intended for the Archduke Rudolph, the violinist Karl August Seiler, and the cellist Anton Krafft.

The same source informs us that the first performance of the concerto took place in May 1808 in the Augarten, Vienna; the concert that featured it belonged to the series that Mozart had inaugurated in 1782.

The audience’s reception was frosty; according to Schindler, the unnamed artists who performed it (and thus indirectly also Beethoven) “earned no applause at all, for they had taken the affair too lightly.” Schindler goes on: “It (the concerto) remained undisturbed until 1830.”

When, at the beginning of the present century, Hugo Riemann revised the third edition of Thayer’s five-volume biography of Beethoven, he identified the Triple Concerto as a descendant of the sinfonia concertante, widely cultivated between 1770 and 1790, in which one or more instruments from the orchestra are treated in a solo fashion.

Even without considering the fact that the piano was never thrust into the foreground at that time, Beethoven’s Op. 56 seems to find a more natural home among the new concertante literature in “chamber music” style of the early nineteenth century, where in addition to the principal instrument – in our case the piano – the other instruments are all given rewarding solos to perform.

The genre constituted by compositions identified simple as “concertante” enjoyed universal popularity in Beethoven’s time and was rarely absent from the many public concerts given by travelling virtuosi.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Triple Concerto, Classical Music, Piano Trio, Kakadu Variations, Bernard Haitink, Prince Lobkowitz, Anton Felix Schindler, Archduke Rudolph, Karl August Seiler, Anton Krafft, Moazart, Hugo Riemann, Thayer, Wenzel Mullers, The Sisters of Prague, Beaux Arts Trio, Manahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, Bernard Greenhouse, London Philharmonic, Michael Talbot, Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht, Jacques Lasserre, Carlo Vitali, Bart Mulder, Christian Steiner, Ed Koenders, Estelle KercherAfter 1800 Beethoven inclined, in his instrumental compositions, towards share thematic and dynamic contrasts; but on the other hand he also favored a unitary approach to cyclical works, which ultimately, as in the Triple Concerto, leads to the presence of strong motivic links between all the movements.

The opening motive in characteristic rhythm, which rises up in the bass instruments and is repeated one scale degree higher, is the kernel from which all the subsequent musical thoughts of the work grow, sometimes so directly that they become hard to distinguish.

For instance, the second theme of the opening Allegro is more notable for the contrast introduced by its dynamic, compulsively modulating development than for its outline. Its structure allows the three instruments to play about with it in manifold ways and even to anticipate the “alla Polacca” finale in the minor-key transformations, which one might well described as “all’Ungherese.”

In the Largo second movement Beethoven transposes the germinal theme to A flat major. Here a broad, freely developed cantilena again eschews contrasts and leads directly into the last movement.

This Rondo alla Polacca in the traditional triple metre harks back to the opening both motivically and formally. As in the first movement we are treated to a minor-key episode, which gradually unfolds dynamically.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Triple Concerto, Classical Music, Piano Trio, Kakadu Variations, Bernard Haitink, Prince Lobkowitz, Anton Felix Schindler, Archduke Rudolph, Karl August Seiler, Anton Krafft, Moazart, Hugo Riemann, Thayer, Wenzel Mullers, The Sisters of Prague, Beaux Arts Trio, Manahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, Bernard Greenhouse, London Philharmonic, Michael Talbot, Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht, Jacques Lasserre, Carlo Vitali, Bart Mulder, Christian Steiner, Ed Koenders, Estelle KercherBeethoven – Piano Trio No. 11 in G, Op. 121a

Although by 1811 Beethoven had already almost “wrapped up” his creative legacy in the genre of the large-scale piano trio in several movements with Op. 70 and the B flat trio Op. 97, he returned once more to the fount of his artistic strivings in 1816 with the variations on “Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu” (Op. 121a).

Like the variations for piano trio on themes by Mozart from his early period, the “Kakadu” Variations are based on a simple, trifling song-theme, which he took from Wenzel Muller’s then very successful opera “The Sisters of Prague.”

Nonetheless, the differences from the early compositions are unmistakable: the structure has been loosened, and the freely flowing counterpoints and urgent, intense musical language used in the gradually expanding forms betray the proximity of the last piano sonatas and the “Diabelli” Variations from the same year.

The set of variations opens with an Adagio assai in G minor, an introduction that, despite being thematically related through its concentrated, shifting harmony, still conceals its aim. Only then do we hear from the trio the merry, trilling theme in the style of a Singspiel.

The first variations initially proceed along traditional paths, allowing the instruments to come into prominence in turn and slowly building up to a climax with changing figurations.

The music grows ever more complex, develops into fugato (variation 5) and fugue (variation 7) and introduces strong contradictions which develop in broad forms (variation 9: Adagio espressivo).

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Triple Concerto, Classical Music, Piano Trio, Kakadu Variations, Bernard Haitink, Prince Lobkowitz, Anton Felix Schindler, Archduke Rudolph, Karl August Seiler, Anton Krafft, Moazart, Hugo Riemann, Thayer, Wenzel Mullers, The Sisters of Prague, Beaux Arts Trio, Manahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, Bernard Greenhouse, London Philharmonic, Michael Talbot, Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht, Jacques Lasserre, Carlo Vitali, Bart Mulder, Christian Steiner, Ed Koenders, Estelle KercherThe tenth and last variation begins as a gigue, then recalls its G minor middle section the harmony of the introduction, and finally, in a viruoso coda, dissolves the outline of the restated opening Allegretto theme in a whirl.

The course of this work once again demonstrates in a nutshell how Beethoven found an individual way forward from the mechanical type of variation of the eighteenth century to the character variation on which he set his stamp.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1: Beethoven Concerto in C (Triple Concerto) – Allegro [18:03]
  • 2: Beethoven Concerto in C (Triple Concerto) – Largo, Rondo alla Polacca [18:24]
  • 3: Beethoven Piano Trio No. 11 in G, Op. 121a [19:01]

FINAL THOUGHT:

So the audience hated the first performance of the Triple Concerto so much that it wasn’t played again for 23 years. Man, have our standards become so low that this bum Beethoven somehow became a genius over the years – or is our knowledge of classical music so limited that anything by anyone from a couple of hundred years ago is considered great because we’re afraid any criticism would show our ignorance? My vote goes to Beethoven is a genius and that opening night audience in 1808 were a bunch of idiots.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Triple Concerto, Classical Music, Piano Trio, Kakadu Variations, Bernard Haitink, Prince Lobkowitz, Anton Felix Schindler, Archduke Rudolph, Karl August Seiler, Anton Krafft, Moazart, Hugo Riemann, Thayer, Wenzel Mullers, The Sisters of Prague, Beaux Arts Trio, Manahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, Bernard Greenhouse, London Philharmonic, Michael Talbot, Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht, Jacques Lasserre, Carlo Vitali, Bart Mulder, Christian Steiner, Ed Koenders, Estelle Kercher

 

 

 

 

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)